Gregory, Dick

Gregory, (Richard Claxton) Dick

(1932–  ) comedian, civil rights activist, nutritionist; born in St. Louis, Mo. Known for his ground-breaking use of socially conscious racial humor, Gregory overcame his origins in extreme poverty to become the first African-American comedian to perform for white audiences. After attending Southern Illinois University on an athletic scholarship and serving in the U.S. Army (1953–56), he rose to national prominence at the Chicago Playboy Club (1961). Throughout the 1960s his fame as a civil rights activist and nightclub performer made his name synonymous with progressive social and political causes. He ran in Chicago's mayoral race (1966) and for the U.S. presidency (1968) to publicize human rights issues. Embracing vegetarianism through his commitment to nonviolence, he became a radical nutritionist and nutritional proselytizer and founded Dick Gregory Health Enterprises (1984). Famous for using fasts and marathons as activist tools, his many popular records and writings include Nigger: An Autobiography (1964, 1970).